Not As I Do

This is a Mother’s Day post, but not in the sense that you may think. The last 17 years, our relationship has been complicated to put it simply. There were many lessons that she tried to teach me as I was growing, but in true child form, I opted to make mistakes versus listening and obeying the warnings she tried so desperately to penetrate into my adolescent psyche.

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I hated everything when I was a teenager.

She became a mother at a very young age. They were married soon after conception and my father, owning the responsibility of his new small family, joined the military. Then I came along. I have written about what I remember (or don’t) of my father in those  early years of life, but the constant was my mother. She was always there.  She raised us with very little help from anyone else, as we constantly moved from one place to another and away from family most of the time.

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My dad was stationed in Korea for a year and Mom was left to raise three kids alone.

I really wish I had appreciated her more then. I wish I had followed some of her instructions. I wish I had even liked her more. No doubt that I love her. She is my mother. But with my stubbornness and her life long search to find herself, we were never friends.

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In the fourth grade (I know this is a trivial time in one’s life that should not hold much weight into adulthood), I started to suck at school. I discovered at an early age that I was really smart. I also discovered that I learned so fast, I could pretty much wing-it most of the time. So I stopped doing homework. To this day I will go out of my way to avoid bringing work of any fashion home with me. This habit also was the driving force that convinced me it was time to leave the military. All this to say, my teachers informed my parents, who were unsuspecting that anything was wrong.

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But we managed a little fun in the midst of frustration.

In 1995, my mother wrote me a letter. It has remained preserved in a clear pencil pocket all these years. I took it with me after I went to juvy (another story for another time), was court ordered to live with my aunt, through college, to war and back twice, owning two houses, having two children of my own. This 3/4 piece of paper in my mother’s handwriting has remained with me.

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The coffee stain at the bottom happened today. This is the first time I have taken it out of that pencil pouch. Dammit.

Dear Dacia,

You are a very intelligent young lady. Your father and I are very proud of you and your accomplishments. We only ask that you try a little harder at keeping your mind on your studies while at school. You only get to go through school one time, please make the best of it. Life is too short as it is. Loosen up, enjoy yourself but remember without knowledge and education, we are poor people. And I don’t mean just the lack of money. I mean, in the lack of mind and knowledge. Try to view school as a play. You have the lead. Your even allowed to make up things as you go along. But you have to learn your lines. Spelling, Math, Reading, Social Studies, etc. You know what I mean. You know you can do better. I’ve seen you do better.

I love you,

Mom

When I became a teenager, my mother and I started down the same path. I can recall a day sitting in the passenger seat of the family car and mom driving. She asked me what I wanted to do with my life. I told her that I just wanted to party. All the time. At 15, I decided that I disagreed with 98% of what the world viewed as the responsibilities of being an adult. She tried to explain these concepts of paying bills and taxes, needing to get a job and what it truly took to support myself and be successful.

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I cannot imagine the desperation of my mother, to see me headed down a road that would lead me to just barely scraping by. I am truly amazed that at 32, I do not have an 18 year old child of my own.

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Recently, I had a chance to spend sometime with my mother. More time than I have spent with her since the day she drove me to the police station and handed me over.

It suddenly occurred to me that we both walked down a path together. And as I left her that day many years ago, I was able to jump back on the right track and make something of myself. She stayed. She made a series of choices that led her to a place that me and my siblings felt needed some intervention.

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As I picked her up and drove her to my home, I could not help but feel like the tables had turned. If I had not finally accepted the advice my mother had tried so hard to give me, I would still be in that passenger seat refusing to accept responsibility or acknowledge consequences of my life choices.

There is so much I want for my mother, but really, I just want a mother. I did not grow up how she expected, but I found my round about way to a successful life. I was not around for us to build that relationship that other daughters have with their mother. My kids might not get to visit Meemaw at the same house she had lived in for decades, like I got to growing up. But that’s alright.

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On Mother’s Day, I always struggle to find a good card at the store. Vague ones that simply say “I love you, Mom.” and don’t talk about “You were always there for me. You’re my best friend. I couldnt have done it without you.” I wish I could say those things, but for whatever reason, my fault, hers, or simply victims of circumstance, we don’t have a relationship like most women.

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Yes we are hoola-hooping in a bar…

I love my mother so deeply. I would tear down a mountain for her. And heaven help anyone that disrespects her or hurts her in anyway. That said, I cannot force her to make choices that would help her fit into this idea of “Mom” that I knew before. If she is happy, healthy, and taken care of I cannot ask much more than that.

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I needed my mama to help me. My PPD had gotten so bad. This visit really was a huge turning point in my own recovery. I still need my mama.

Even though her time with me was under stressful circumstances and her departure was quite abrupt, I did learn one thing. I need my mother. No matter who she was before or who she is now. I just needed her because I know she’d love me even if I wasn’t successful. Even if I was still in that passenger seat. Even if she had an 18 year old grandchild. She will always love me in the ways she can.

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So, happy Mother’s Day, Woman. I love you.

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3 thoughts on “Not As I Do

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